Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The London Student Experience With Unite Students



Just a little pre warning that this is quite a lengthy post! Grab yourself a coffee (or whatever beverage floats your boat) and enjoy.

As you may have already read, on the 3rd-6th August I visited London to work with Unite Students and take part in a 24-hour challenge. 12 bloggers/vloggers with an interest in marketing, journalism and photography were chosen.. (I can't believe how lucky I was to be chosen out of all the thousands of bloggers out there..!). In our teams we had to create a '24 hour student guide to London' aiming to keep within budget and find hidden gems 'off the beaten track'.  

Anyway.. let's start from the beginning. On the 3rd of August I hopped on the train from Darlington station to Kings Cross. I was excited but also incredibly nervous! I'm quite a shy person so meeting 11 people I had never met before and spending 3 days with them was a pretty daunting prospect. I was also worried about finding my way to the right place. It turns out I really had nothing to worry about at all! I managed to get the tube to the right place (haaaaallelujah). We then travelled to the Stratford ONE student accommodation where we would be staying for the three days. 

After the boring stuff AKA filling in some forms and signing papers, we all started to get to know each other. I honestly don't know why I was so worried because everyone was SO lovely. No one made me feel awkward/shy and the fact that we're bloggers meant that we had lots of stuff to talk about. On the first night I even had a conversation with some of the girls about how good the film Notting Hill is.. from then I really knew we would get on juuuuust fine. 



We were shown to our lovely rooms which I would describe as very luxury student accommodation.. definitely nothing like the typical scruffy dives that a lot of students live in. There was a goody bag left on each of our beds containing the likes of a portable phone charger, a USB stick and even our favourite snack (I chose chocolate chip cookies). 


Once we had settled in to our rooms, we all headed up to the Stratford ONE 'Sky Room' on the top floor (the view can be seen in the picture below). We all enjoyed a few drinks and got to know each other a bit more. 


I was just sat there sipping procesecco with the most incredible view, thinking to myself.. yep. I could get used to this. Just when I thought things couldn't get much better, we were told we were going out for dinner and bowling at All Stars in Westfield shopping centre! 


We chowed down on delicious burgers and fries and then bowled. It was SO much fun and I'm pretty sure I spent the majority of the evening laughing. 

* * *

PLANNING DAY


The next morning we were treated to a delicious breakfast of fruit, pastries and yoghurt in the sky room. The almond croissants were delicious (it had lots of the squidgy almond filling) and now I'm craving one just thinking about it. MmmMMmMm. 


The morning was spent learning some interesting stuff about marketing and photography thanks to the guys from STEAK and Tim the photographer. This was followed by snack time and an amazing feast for lunch - they certainly kept us very well fed. 



After lunch we were put into our teams of four for the #UStudents24 challenge. I was with Jade, Nammie and Lewis. I would have been more than happy with anyone in the whole group but I was pleased with my team as we came to realise how similar we are and how much we just wanted to have fun during the challenge. 

We decided on the team name TEAM BUELLER - thanks to Lewis who had the genius idea of theming our guide as a 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' style day. As I said before, I can be quite nervous with new people but it was absolutely fine because they are beyond lovely and we got on so well (Thank you so much guys <3). We spent the rest of the day planning our itinerary and the places we wanted to include in our day out. 

In the evening we ate pizza. This was actually my first Domino's experience! Thoughts? it was good but not as good as Pizza Express. We then went to bed in attempt to get an early night for the challenge ahead of us.


* * *

CHALLENGE DAY

At 4am my alarm went off. I had a pretty good sleep so getting up wasn't too bad..(the challenge was yet to come though). Everyone met in the Sky room at 5am to watch the sunrise before embarking on the challenge at 6am. We were also given a budget of £60 each for the day (£30 for food and £30 for activities and entries). Our first stop was Jonestown for coffee in Bethnal Green. I had the most incredible iced caramel latté.. and let me tell you, it was very much needed after the early start. It's such a cute little café and was the perfect place to start the day.


Once we had been nicely fuelled with Jonestown coffee, we mooched down Brick Lane. I don't think I had ever walked down Brick Lane before (not that I can remember anyway) but the street art is absolutely incredible. 



Next stop was the Cereal Killer café in Shoreditch and this was probably the place I was most excited to visit.. I mean it's a cafe that sells every cereal variety you could ever imagine (even ones you don't know exist) plus toppings and all different milk varieties. I had peanut butter Jif cereal topped with peanut butter chips and it was HEAVENLY. I must add that it was very difficult to choose what to have. I reckon I need around 31538178 more trips just so I can try every cereal that I feel I must experience. 



Next we headed to the Sky Garden on Fenchurch street which is at the top of the 'Walkie Talkie building'. The view was quite incredible! It's actually completely free to visit the Sky Garden, you just have to book beforehand! Cool huh!


After that, we perused Borough market and its mouth watering food offerings. I'm a complete foodie so I felt a bit like I was in food heaven. We had a quick game of 'find the freebie'.. it's amazing what you can get for free if you just ask! 


We also went to Tate Modern for a browse and of course we had to take a Ferris Bueller art gallery esque picture (if you haven't seen the film, this will make no sense and if you haven't seen the film - why on earth have you not seen the film?!) I really like Tate Modern because it's full of super quirky art which I actually find really interesting to look at. There's even a piece that is simply just a square mirror.. which sounds weird but it has a great description (it's all to do with how self obsessed and superficial people have become).

                                        

By this time it was around 1pm and we needed energy after a full on morning. Pie Minister  in Southbank was our lunch spot as Unite Students had secured us a free lunch there. I can honestly say that it did not disappoint. I went for the 'Free Ranger' pie which was chicken and leek in a creamy sauce. YUM.


After our delicious lunch we continued to stroll along Southbank. I really like this area as there was a nice balance of busy city vibes but also greenery and trees. We came across a 'Snog' fro yo party bus which meant fro yo simply had to be purchased. We had SUCH a good food day.


Next was Covent garden where we had a quick look round the Moomin store (SO CUTE) and spent a bit of time chilling in the sun watching street performers. Then we got a Rickshaw to Leicester Square which was brilliant! There's something about travelling by rickshaw that feels so classy. It was also quite a relief not to be walking somewhere for the first time in the day! This was followed by a browse in Forbidden Planet (a sci-fi shop) which was totally not my thing but hey, we wanted our guide to appeal to all different types of student!



And then we bought some American candy because who can resist Reeses pieces? (not me).


We had a very quick stop at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. I've actually been there a few times before but it's one of those things that's always cool to do in London because it's free and interesting to look around * queue dinosaur pose *.


We walked to Hyde Park which is absolutely beautiful. It was really nice to get a bit away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Unfortunately by this time the weather had taken a turn for the worst and it was also at this point that the very early start was beginning to take its toll. We were all exhausted and everything ached! I completely underestimated how difficult going round London all day would be! After our walk and a quick go on the pedalo's, it was definitely food time. 


Our dinner spot was Maggie Jones's, a little cosy and rustic restaurant in Kensington. It was very different to any restaurant I've ever been to before and the food was deeeeelish. For a restaurant in Kensington, it was surprisingly not too expensive. I opted for a lamb rump with garlic and rosemary sauce (£24.95) with a side of new potato's. The lamb was cooked to perfection and deliciously crispy * dreams about food *. Also the waiter who served us was dreamy.. definitely heart eye emoji worthy. 

After our refuel we felt a lot better and ready to take on the rest of the evening!


Our next stop was the outdoor Luna cinema in the grounds of Kensington Palace to watch the 80's classic, 'The Lost Boys'. On our way there we walked through the Kensington Palace gardens which are so picturesque and peaceful. Definitely the perfect spot for a mid evening walk. 


Because Jade is so brilliant, she managed to secure us premium seating at the Luna cinema which included free drinks and a cookie.. oh and we also got a lanyard which was cool because we felt very VIP * super cool sunglasses emoji *. My first experience of an outdoor cinema was a good one!


It was coming to the end of the day and our last stop was The Breakfast Club in Spitalfields for cocktails. Unlike any place I have been to before, if you go up to a member of staff and ask to see 'The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town' they will lead you to the fridge and open the door to which leads you to a secret underground bar. Seriously how cool is that?! 

After finishing our cocktails we decided to call it a night and slowly begin our trek back to base camp. On our way back we managed to fit in a bit of sight seeing including some very quirky late night art and the 'gherkin' all lit up. The tiredness was really kicking in by this point so we got an Uber back to Stratford ONE.


To end the day on a high, we decided to chill out with Netflix and sweets before collapsing into bed. We didn't manage 24 hours but we did manage 22 which I think is pretty impressive if I do say so myself. I don't think I've ever packed so many things into one day before! It was a challenge but I had such a brilliant time seeing parts of London that I had never seen. 



* * *

PRESENTATION DAY

The next day we were up bright and early to start compiling our footage from the challenge day. We had to create a 15 minute presentation ready to present back to the whole group.

After lunch, all three groups went up to the Sky Room ready to present what we had put together. I loved getting to see what the other two teams had done. Both of the other teams (Team RAIR and the Dream Team) had put together brilliant days out and I honestly had no idea who was going to win. While the judges were deliberating over the result, we all made our way downstairs to eagerly wait.. 

And guess what?! TEAM BUELLER WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE ACTUALLY WON!!!!!!!!!!!


I was so over excited when they announced that Team Bueller had won. It was just brilliant! (Feeling kinda emosh just reminiscing over it now). Oh and we each won an iPad mini! Eeeeeek!


After a quick interview, it was time to say goodbye and head back home. I had only known everyone for three days but it honestly felt like I had been friends with these people for years.. such an odd feeling! It made saying goodbye quite emotional and I really didn't want to go. I could have quite happily stayed for a few more weeks!


I still can't quite believe how lucky I was to take part in this amazing opportunity. I thought it would be good but I really had no idea how much of an amazing time I was going to have. It was an experience I will never forget! I went to London, did amazing things and met amazing people. I really don't think it could have been any better! 

I want to say a huge thank you to the people from Unite Students and STEAK for making this happen and inviting me to take part! 

I also want to say thank you to the whole group for just being awesome people and making this trip so much fun. I hope we can all reunite at some point in the future! 

And thank you Tim for being a brilliant camera man! 


#TEAMBUELLER


* All expenses were paid by Unite Students however all opinions are totally my own because lying is not cool *